The Seattle Kraken avoided arbitration with restricted free agent defenseman Vince Dunn, agreeing to a two-year contract worth $8M. Dunn was scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Aug. 14 but will no longer need it. GM Ron Francis released a short statement:
"Vince is a mobile, puck-moving defenseman that can help generate offense from our blueline. He’s a smooth skater that helps drive possession and plays a physical game."
Dunn, 24, was the team’s selection from the St. Louis Blues in the expansion draft, picked over the exposed Vladimir Tarasenko and other options. The reason for it, and for this hefty raise, is the offensive upside that Dunn has demonstrated in the early part of his career. Since entering the league in 2017-18, Dunn’s 32 goals actually tie him for 27th among NHL defenders despite averaging just over 17 minutes a night.
Even with a handful of healthy scratches this season for the Blues, that average ice time actually increased to more than 19 minutes a night as he began to earn more trust from the coaching staff. Make no mistake, Dunn can be a polarizing player and still will have his fair share of defensive lapses, but on a team like Seattle that will look for someone to run the top power play, he should find plenty of success.
In fact, there’s a good chance that Dunn leads all Kraken defensemen in scoring in their first season given the alternatives. Adam Larsson, Jamie Oleksiak and Carson Soucy are all much more defensive options, and though Mark Giordano–the 2019 Norris winner–has obvious offensive talent, he’ll also be 38 when the season starts. In that context, paying Dunn $4M might make some sense, but it also comes with some significant risk for the Kraken.
Not only could he struggle enough defensively to offset his offense and make him a net negative, but if the team goes through some growing pains he will be much harder to trade at that number. Right now, Dunn represents a ton of untapped offensive potential. If he is given more responsibility and the numbers don’t improve, the Kraken are looking at an expensive, underperforming asset.
That gamble is one that Francis and company are willing to take, especially with the amount of cap space they have right now. Even after signing Dunn and Marcus Johansson earlier Friday, the team is still nearly $10M under the cap ceiling. Dennis Cholowski, Carsen Twarynski, Kole Lind and Cale Fleury remain unsigned, but none of the four are arbitration-eligible.